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2/7/2002

CDC Updates Childhood Immunization Schedule

Kate Traynor

This year's recommended childhood immunization schedule is relatively unchanged from the one devised last year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).

A new addition to the schedule—an annual influenza vaccine—targets children with risk factors, such as cardiac or sickle cell disease, diabetes mellitus, and human immunodeficiency virus infection, that increase the likelihood of complications from influenza. ACIP noted that the vaccine can be given to any child over six months of age, but the committee did not make a blanket recommendation to vaccinate all children against influenza.

ACIP stopped short of recommending universal vaccination against the hepatitis A virus, and instead suggested vaccinating children two years or older who are at high risk for the disease or live in areas where hepatitis A is common.

This year's recommended immunization schedule places special emphasis on vaccine coverage for adolescents who have missed vaccine doses. Last year's window for administering missed doses of hepatitis B vaccine—ages 11 to 12—was expanded to include the entire "preadolescent" period—2 to 18 years of age. Children 14 to 18 years old are now part of the age groups that should be brought up-to-date on measles, mumps, and rubella vaccination.

The catch-up ages for varicella vaccination were expanded to include children up to age 18, a change from last year's recommendation to offer the vaccine to 11- and 12-year-old children who missed their infant dose.

ACIP did not discuss how vaccine shortages will affect efforts to bring U.S. children’s vaccination histories into compliance with the new immunization schedule. ASHP's Drug Product Shortages Management Resources Center has reported recent shortages of most of the vaccines listed on ACIP's immunization schedule.